ROSEMONT, Ill. —Stephen Bardo and Jim Jackson sat at a table minutes after Big Ten media day. As they talked about the league’s best players, Iowa’s senior point guard first was mentioned by last name.
Jackson, a former All-American at Ohio State and now a BTN analyst, said, “Fran used Roy, err Devyn …”
Bardo, a member of Illinois’ vaunted Flying Illini of the late 1980s and now Jackson’s BTN teammate, interrupted him. “Just say Roy, he don’t mind.”
Both Jackson and Bardo competed against Devyn Marble’s father, Roy, at the height of the Big Ten’s basketball prowess. Roy Marble is Iowa’s all-time leading scorer and went head-to-head against both players in the late 1980s. Now both assess Devyn Marble’s game as transcendent — like his father’s — entering his final season at Iowa.
“I like Devyn’s game,” Bardo said. “If they can slide him off more and get him off that point position and get him on the wing, he’s a legit 6-7. I’m 6-6 and I’m looking up at him. He’s got the ball handling skills and the creativity to get in the paint and the bloodlines will kick in. Because his dad was a beast, and that strength will come. It’s still coming.”
Marble played off the ball the majority of his Iowa career, but now he slides over as Iowa’s primary distributor. He provides instant offense and the ability to work for others both on the perimeter and when he drives in the lane, Jackson said.
“He’s probably their best creator,” Jackson said. “I think he’s real effective when he’s on the wing doing the same thing because even though he can do both things, he has the mentality of, ‘I’m going to get in there and he knows when to pass and when to shoot.’ So now you’ve got to complement that with a point guard that make it easier on Devyn to be more efficient because that’s the key. The skill set is there. The mentality. He’s made some really big shots. He’s not afraid to take a big shot.”
Marble moved to the point late in the season when starter Mike Gesell suffered a foot injury. But Marble had taken over on offense well before that. He ended a crippling mid-season slump with 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting against Northwestern. Over his final 15 games last year, Marble averaged 17.8 points a game. He finished at 15.0 points, second-best among the Big Ten’s returning scorers.
But Marble wasn’t tabbed among for the all-Big Ten preseason squad. He shrugs off the slight as unimportant, but one easily can see it also fuels him.
“I’m not a guy that people want to give respect to,” Marble said. “If that’s what they see, then maybe I’ve got to change what they see.
“I’ve got to take my game to another level. I don’t think that’s necessarily about scoring. I think I could do a variety of things. I think that’s what makes me as good as I am because I can do a variety of things.”
That starts with assists, not points. Marble said he was disappointed last year by averaging less than three assists a game. He believes he will score more often, in part because of new NCAA rules allowing more freedom of movement and prohibiting hand checks. If Marble simply matches last year’s numbers, he’ll move into Iowa’s top five all-time in scoring. If he scores 100 more than last year, he’ll sit at No. 2.
His main focus comes down to wins. Marble wants an NCAA tournament berth; his father played in it all four years. The Hawkeyes were one of the final six teams left out the NCAA grid last year, in part because of Marble’s mid-season struggles. Jackson said this year Iowa has all the pieces surrounding Marble to help him elevate his profile, including experience. That in turn will elevate the Hawkeyes.
Bardo was particularly bullish on Marble, a Detroit native.
“You’ve got to understand something: (Michigan sophomore center). Mitch McGary is older than Devyn right now,” Bardo said. “Devyn just turned 21 in September. He’s grown three inches since he got to school. He’s still filling out. I think the world of his game. I think he can make that jump.”
If he does take that leap, the world needs an answer for his name: Is it Roy, Devyn or Roy Devyn?
“I’ve always been going by Devyn for my whole life,” Marble said. “It’s not to try to separate me from my dad or anything like that. I’ve always been going by Devyn.”
Devyn it is. College basketball world, meet Devyn Marble.